I am the attorney representing Tawni Angel and her company in the lawsuit against the protestors at the Main Street Farmer’s Market, but this letter is not about the lawsuit. It’s about the ponies.
As an attorney, I have the privilege of immersing myself into my clients’ worlds and learning things I otherwise probably would never learn. I find that this dispute regarding the ponies is just one symptom of a disease that is impacting anyone who employs animals in doing work.
Our Nation has a long history of relying on horses, ponies and their cousins to do work, from the Pony Express to draft horses that have pulled wagons for centuries. Horses have gone with us into war, allow mounted police to protect us in situations where cars would be ineffective, assist cattle ranchers with their herds and provide the opportunity for small children to have direct contact with a large animal where they otherwise might never be close enough to touch one. Such is the case in Santa Monica with Tawnis Ponies.
The protestors try to equate having these animals provide rides to children at the Farmers’ Market with slavery or torture. They cannot dispute that these animals are only at the Main Street Farmer’s Market for a few hours each Sunday and that these animals otherwise live on a five-acre pasture out in the country, but the protestors say that having these ponies in harness carrying small children on their backs is harmful to the animals and teaches children that animals are here to serve man.
For centuries, horses and ponies have been bred and taught to work with people and they enjoy being around people. Tawni’s ponies enjoy their work at the Farmers’ Market. It is a weekly outing for them, much in the way that the family dog tries to get into the car when the family is heading somewhere. The ponies want to go, too.
There is no question that being around animals is good for people. It lowers blood pressure and can assist with ailments from dementia to autism. And yet, the protestors at the Farmer’s Market want animals excluded from the Farmer’s Market because they believe that animals are not meant to work for people. Their mistake is a matter of semantics. These animals do not work for Tawni. They work with her and together Tawni and her animals bring in enough money to support themselves as a family and provide a safe home for approximately 90 animals that live on Tawni’s farm.
A seeing eye dog is a working dog with an important and difficult job, but no one would protest the use of them by calling them slaves or their work torture, because dogs have a long history of working with their owners, too. Just ask the police officer in a canine unit or the soldier who relies on his wartime companion to look for bombs.
Technology has eliminated the need for horses and their cousins to do much of the manual labor they used to do, but there are still many settings where these animals work with people. This recent animal rights movement contending that the use of animals in work is wrong because it is subjugation (i.e., the loss of the animal’s freedom), slavery or torture misconstrues the role of animals in the lives of the people who work with them. In Tawni’s case, her animals are family.
As the protestors are quick to point out, about 15 years ago a prior pony ride operator at the Farmer’s Market was found to be neglecting their ponies, but the Santa Monica Police Department’s Animal Control Unit has investigated Tawnis Ponies at the protestors’ demand on multiple occasions and did not find any evidence of animal abuse. Moreover, Tawnis Ponies has never been cited by any governmental agency for any infraction concerning the care or welfare of its animals.
If the Santa Monica City Council does not reverse its decision to exclude animal exhibits from the Main Street Farmer’s Market when Tawnis Ponies’ current contract expires next May, then the hundreds of children who visit the Farmer’s Market to ride Tawni’s ponies each week and enjoy her petting zoo will lose the opportunity to experience these animals and Tawni will lose the ability to support her large animal family.
If the protestors get what they want, then one more affordable way for children to be exposed to animals will disappear. If this trend continues, only those who are wealthy enough to pay for rides at a stable or afford their own pony will get the benefit of interacting with these amazing creatures.
I would ask that your readers sign a new petition asking the Santa Monica City Council to change its mind. This petition was started on Monday evening (Nov. 17) and already has nearly 1,300 signatures.
Here is the link:
Very truly yours,
Talisman Law, P.C.
/s/ Donald E. Chomiak
Donald E. Chomiak